(Photo Jewel Samad)
The United Nations may set up a sex abuse blacklist of countries whose peacekeepers will be banned from UN missions, a top official said after two new cases were reported in Haiti.
Investigations have been launched into "grave allegations of sexual and exploitation abuses," the UN mission in Haiti, MINUSTAH, said in a statement. UN spokesman Martin Nesirky said the cases involved minors.
The new scandal has erupted barely four months after six Uruguayan troops in MINUSTAH were accused of raping a teenage youth.
There have also been accusations against peacekeeping missions in Africa.
"We will continue to take the strictest measures in order to ensure, when needed, that the perpetrators of such acts be sanctioned with the strongest severity," MINUSTAH chief Mariano Fernandez Amunategui said in the statement.
UN officials have not given the nationality of the police at the centre of the new accusations.
But Edmond Mulet, an assistant secretary general in the UN peacekeeping department, said the world body was considering setting up a sex abuse blacklist.
"We take this very seriously. We are doing everything we can in order to diminish the consequences," Mulet, a former UN envoy in Haiti, said in answer to questions about Haiti at an event in Washington.
Individuals who accused in sex cases are immediately banned from UN duties. The UN is also considering how "we can put some kind of pressure on troop contributing countries, to be put on a special list and that we will not be requesting their assistance or their contributions," Mulet said.
Countries with a record of abuse "have to suffer the consequences," Mulet said, and the record will be "taken into account for future peacekeeping missions if they don't assume their responsibilities."
MINUSTAH alerted the UN headquarters of the new allegations of "sexual exploitation and abuse involving minors" on January 16, UN spokesman Nesirky told reporters. An investigation team has since been sent to Haiti where UN peacekeepers have also been accused of starting a cholera epidemic that has killed nearly 7,000 people.
The accused officers have been removed from duties, he added.
"The United Nations is outraged by these allegations and takes its responsibilities to deal with them extremely seriously," said Nesirky. The mission "will take action to support the alleged victims," he added.
The UN leadership was severely embarrassed last September when videos of the rape of the Haitian teenager by Uruguayan troops was put on the Internet last September. Five of the troops have since been jailed and Uruguay's President Jose Mujica made a public apology to Haiti.
UN peacekeepers in Democratic Republic of Congo, Liberia and Ivory Coast have also faced dozens of accusations of sexual abuse in recent years.
The UN peacekeeping department insists that the numbers have been brought down in recent years since it stepped up its "zero tolerance" policy.